Ecosystem status of the deep Black Sea, soft sediment, benthic community
The deep soft sediment Black Sea benthic community is dominated by cold seep habitats formed by the microbial breakdown of phytoplankton. The deep Black Sea benthic ecosystem is chemosynthetic with methanogenesis and the sulfate-driven anaerobic oxidation of methane acting as the primary metabolic pathways. Due to the depth and lack of metazoan life the deep Black Sea benthic ecosystem is generally regarded to be at low risk from anthropogenic impact and has little legislation pertaining directly to the preservation of the chemosynthetic habitats. The principal ecosystem services provided by the Black Sea include carbon sequestration and preservation of historical artefacts. Compared to other ecosystems, information on microbial biodiversity and ecosystem services in the deep Black Sea is lacking, and we highlight a need to plan and implement research programmes to address significant gaps and to enhance scientific understanding of this environment.